HISTORY IN THE MAKING

From inside the factory which once saw Josiah Wedgwood, ‘the father of English potters’ scale British craft to the pinnacle of triumph and innovation, artist Andrew Edwards has been working on a sculpture which links us back to the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found.
On May 17th Andrew Edwards unveiled his 9ft Anglo-Saxon Warrior to a standing ovation of over 200 people at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery in Stoke on Trent. The city occupies a unique geographical position at the heartland of ancient Mercia. The sculpture depicts “Cnight” of Wulfhere, the Saxon son of Penda (the first King of Mercia) is a project funded by Stoke City Council and will be on permanent display as part of a broader interest in contextualising the famous Staffordshire Hoard. Now the ‘Staffordshire Saxon” stands in the entrance to the museum as protecting the treasure within.

Internationally renowned sculptor Andrew Edwards, who hails from the Potteries, has worked with Castle Fine Arts Foundry on a number culturally significant commissions including statues of Stanley Matthews  at the Britannia Stadium, Gordon Banks  which was unveiled by soccer legend Pele and Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 2008 and Muhammad Ali. He says that his latest commission is “pulling people together in the spirit of cooperation, creating links between people and places that wouldn’t otherwise exist.”

Where Art Can Lead Science

“Using combined technologies of taking a small-scale model and enlarging it – together with Castle Fine Arts, we have been able to produce not only a monumental piece of artwork, but discover and explore history in new ways, taking us to a place where ‘Art can lead Science’.  We can’t copyright 7th century artefacts, so creating the Saxon is like uncovering a ‘cache’ of locked knowledge, stories that can delve into dark ages innovatively – a multi-dimensional crossroads in time and space, if you like.

Through team ability and proficiency to approach research in a different way, a way that is not intimidated or restricted by the more academic method of documentation used by archaeologists, we have revealed detailed insights that may otherwise have been overlooked.”

Thinking sculpturally allows the artist and foundry engineers to make the bold step of understanding and evaluating history through practical experiment and observation. We might compare the sculptor, in this respect, to an actor preparing for a role – inheriting the character for a while, researching and observing detail both visual and implied.

The Staffordshire Saxon project raises far-reaching questions on the function and nature of history itself,” says the artist. “The helmet motif for example, represents the birth of a cultural shift in history where the world of symbolism is replaced by a different type of culture, the written word. The statue is designed as a compendium of animal, plant and esoteric symbology, ideas and truth.”

Andrew Edwards concludes by saying, “We can begin to see by extracting knowledge from the Hoard and putting it into a living context, that we have been left some essential signs to help us find our way today, toward a clearer understanding and integration of ourselves as a society and furthermore toward an integration of the things that make us.”

The Staffordshire Saxon which marks the start of a new 13-month exhibition at the Potteries Museum & Art Gallery is sponsored by Wedgwood. For more information, please contact the museum directly.

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